By Anne Sheetz, M.D. | Chapter News Blogger at PNHP

At 10:10 a.m. on Thursday, October 8, I watched two policemen drag my beloved husband, Jim Rhodes, across a cement plaza in downtown Chicago. His offense: joining 6 other people to sit-in in the lobby of Cigna, refusing to move until Cigna promises to pay all claims for physician-ordered care.

I did not expect him to be hurt. He was not even in handcuffs, and he was not dragged very far. I expected that at worst he would be hungry for awhile, and spend the night in jail. Still, it grieved me to see them treated so coldly, not because they would be hurt, but that they were being brought to jail while people died due to denied claims.

Jim is a veteran of numerous demonstrations, but this was his first act of civil disobedience and his first arrest. He felt it was finally worth arrest for the sake calling attention to the fatal policies of the private insurance industry.

We were there because I am a doctor, and Jim is the manager of my medical practice. We were there because 45,000 people died last year for lack of insurance. In that same time period, 450,000 people who got sick and had health insurance went bankrupt. Jim’s grandchildren have insurance through the state, but their parents are uninsured.

I have witnessed firsthand the workings of the private insurance industry. One of my patients died of upper gastrointestinal bleeding after her insurance plan discontinued coverage for her ulcer medicine. Another patient was refused a procedure while his HMO was bought out. As a result, he developed a life-threatening infection in one of the bones of his neck. Midge Hough was marching outside Cigna for her lost daughter-in-law and grandchild who both died due to lack of insurance.

Despite the tragic state of the private insurance industry, this demonstration was an act of hope. The members of the Chicago Single-Payer Action Network, Mobilization for Health Care, and the arrestees all devoted hours of meticulous planning to ensure a successful demonstration. The marchers outside ensured media coverage and attention to our country’s health care tragedy.
We worked tirelessly on this effort because we know how to create a system that cares for everybody justly and affordably. Over two-thirds of the population shares our desire for this system, we know that Medicare for All is the only solution to our country’s health care tragedy; because we know that we can do it.

Even the police officers who processed our friends’ paperwork voiced their support for health care reform, and released all the arrestees in less than 90 minutes.

Medicare for All is the only health care reform that will give everyone access to care while controlling costs. In the weeks to come, more people will put their bodies on the line in order to bring it about; and many more who do not choose to be arrested will march, chant, talk to their neighbors, write letters, go door to door, stand in the cold on street corners and at bus stops holding signs. We will work until we win. Yes we will.

Everybody in, nobody out. One nation, one health plan. People not profits. Medicare for All.

Dr. Anne Scheetz is a physician in private practice who makes house calls to the elderly who cannot leave home to obtain medical care. She is a long-time member of Physicians for a National Health Program, organizer for Health Care for All Illinois, and the immediate past co-chair of the Chicago chapter of the Illinois Single-Payer Coalition.
For more information on Mobilization for Health Care for All, please visit http://mobilizeforhealthcare.org/.

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